Sunday, July 29, 2007

2 Blue Beans

My vunderful vife Trisha is sewing little girls' clothes for sale on Etsy. If your plans call for the purchase of such items, check it out:


If you've read my earlier diatribe (too lazy to link it for you! ha!) you know of my history with radio controlled aircraft. I'm happy to say that I've built one that I think will survive me. It's a kit I got last Christmas from my folks, completely carbon fiber and ripstop nylon. I finally finished it up last night and flew it today. Very floaty, kind of like flying a powered leaf. Lots 'o fun. When it hits the dirt the tubing joints pop, and you just press it back togeteher. Brilliant!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

46 MPG

Ok, that is the last post I will make about gas mileage, because it is an incredibly wanky-ass subject to be writing about. You want to see some people in need of a real hobby, go to and read a forum or two.

BUT 46 MPG!!!! The EPA for the car is only 32. In real terms, that means I can go 140 more miles per tank, or almost 4 round trips to work.

Yes, I do eat meat, fly on jet planes, and my gas savings could be wiped out merely by having lunch somewhere decent. So it ultimately means nothing in terms of environment and finance.

46 MPG!!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Because "driving like a granny" just doesn't sound as cool. So after a few months of commuting, I've found that no matter how fast you book it on the highway, it's going to take about 35 minutes each way if you're lucky. Since my wonderful wife got me an iPod for my birthday, I now have a reliable source of This American Lives and cell biology lectures from Berkeley.

So, why not take it to the other extreme and try to get the best gas mileage you can? The prerequisites are:
1) A stick shift.
2) A willingness to let it all go

I have the first, it took a while to attain the second, but last week I managed 38 MPG in my 2000 Civic with 106,000 miles. Not too shabby, I thought, especially since my drive is 7 miles of highway bookended by 6 miles of surface street on each end.

Like everything else, there are nutcases out there who give my newfound extreme sport a bad name - people who hit the offramp doing 50, shut the engine off, and don't touch the brakes until they hit the curb with their front tires at their destination. And people who refuse to accelerate at any more than a snail's pace - those lights don't last forever, and more than 3 cars would like to get through.

But, even being relatively courteous and relatively safe, you can do a lot. The biggest thing is the most boring - get on the highway, set the cruise control for 55 (if you're feeling mellow) or 60 (if you're in a frisky mood), and sit in the right hand lane. It's incredibly relaxing. In Atlanta, with 5 lanes of traffic to your left, it's like you're not even moving. I almost never have to touch anything from the time I get on the highway to the time I get off. For most cars, fuel economy tops out in 5th gear at 45 or so, remains pretty steady until about 60, then tails off badly - 20% lower at 70, 30% lower at 80, etc. And over 7 miles, the difference between 60 and 80 is nothing - especially since you end up braking and weaving trying to do 80.

Second - don't use your brakes. This just means, brake with the engine as much as possible, which forces you to drive with plenty of space in between you and the car in front of you. The ideal is that you never stop, you're always creeping up to lights until they change. In practice, this only works for me sometimes - like I said, the volume of traffic is usually such that if you creep too much, you're pissing people off who are trying to get through the same light you are. But, this morning, I made it through 4 lights without touching the brakes. This one leads to dangerous behavior - like cornering too fast to keep up your momentum. But hey - giving up speeding has to have some benefits...

Third - gentle on the accelerator. Duh. It takes real, Newton's-law kind of energy to accelerate a body at rest. In ideal world, it takes no energy to maintain the same velocity - in our world, you have to overcome friction and air resistance - but that's a lot less than accelerating. I try to shift at 2000 rpm now, and get into 5th gear as soon as possible (but without depressing the accelerator any more than necessary).

Fourth - maintain the car. I'm trying to do more of this on the Civic. (The van is big and scary, and I happily leave that to my Honda Dude). I look forward to changing or cleaning the plugs, air filter, and putting in lightweight oil.

Side benefits are, the car should last a lot longer, the drive is a lot more relaxing, and when you actually do have to accelerate, brake or maneuver, it's much more thrilling.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Thought I'd post a short bit on the software I'm working on. Basically, it's a glorified Notepad with big fonts! Sounds exciting, doesn't it? It's to support my incredibly weak memory. I enjoy playing the guitar and singing. Except that I can't remember chords. Or lyrics. So, unless I have something in front of me, my hot jams usually go something like, "ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER! Princess, somethin, something, outside in the cold, umm... GUITAR SOLO!!!!"

Guitaraoke is a simple program to display chords and lyrics. There's a list of artists, a list of songs, and a big text area so the laptop can be across the room. I have a foot control that I'm building from an old USB keyboard so I can switch songs and scroll through the lyrics without stopping the rock. Zac and I tried it out the other week, and it works great - we got through a lot more songs, a lot more easily, than with printing everything out.

I'm working on polishing it up a little bit and then I'll post it on the web for all to enjoy. I had some spare time in my meetings this week so I added the ability to play an mp3 for each song, and a little bit of an easier way to load songs in (they're just text files in folders, usually copy/pasted off the stellar

Monday, July 02, 2007

Indoor project

When a 1959 all-tube Wurlitzer organ presents itself on the List of Craig for merely $100, one must respond. One must throw out one's own back, and two of thine friends backs in the process.

Actually, I had no idea that it was all tube, or 1959. We picked it up, and it is a HEAVY sumbitch, let me tell you. Got it back home, doodled around with it (it actually sounds pretty dang nice), then I googled the model number - 1959! Hey, cool.

That night, I opened up the back to reveal the glory you see here. You see, I have a fetish for vacuum tubes. I thought my 3-tube guitar amp was pretty cool. I just about soiled my pants when I took the cover off. The label proclaiming "28 12FQ8 Tubes". The fact that those are all individual tube oscillators to produce the tones. The rows of ganged capacitors. The 6L6 power amp tubes. The fact that the stop switches just have a few tubes thrown in for good measure.

And in a global economy that provides us with so much for so little, the isolationist protectionist in me wept a little bit inside, to read, on each and every tube, "Made in the USA for Wurlitzer by General Electric".

...What so proudly we hailed, in the twilight's last gleaming...